From my diary

This evening I emailed a correspondent, asking if he knew someone who might translate some works by Methodius out of Russian.  Knowledge of Old Slavonic would be good; and the translator must be a native English speaker, and familiar with Christian jargon.  I’ve had rough experiences when these last two were not present!

The enquiry may or may not produce results, but if not, I have another possible translator in mind.

I left work at 3:30pm this afternoon, to travel to Cambridge University Library.  Not, I might add, in order to use the books, but rather to perform a CETEDOC search of Latin literature for uses of the phrase “Sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros” – “His blood be upon us, and upon our children.”  Yes, it’s Matthew 27:25 again.

It took me almost 45 minutes to drive the 3 miles in question, thanks to the selfish attitude of those who control the roads policy of Cambridge council – which, I imagine, is the immensely rich, powerful and successful university that fills its town centre.  It took a similar time to get back.  The ill-maintained roads have received negligible care in 20 years, to my certain knowledge, and are full-to-bursting.  The university profits enormously from the economic activity that Cambridge enjoys; but invests none of it in the amenities of the town.

These same selfish people insist that an external reader like myself make that journey in order to use the electronic databases.  They can be used from anywhere, if you have a login; but they force ordinary people like me to physically travel there.  I grudge the hours of my life that these people stole from me.  May Minos sentence them to the fate of Sisyphus.

Anyway I performed the search, and saved the results in PDF for later investigation, and checked – of course – that it had saved.  I then did the search again, this time with a date range on it (to the end of the 5th century), and curiously the results were different.  Tertullian only turned up in the second search.  Anyway I saved the results of that search too, but didn’t check it.

Imagine, therefore, my rage on discovering just now that the PDF from the second search did not save the results; and merely saved the query parameters!  I lost two hours of my life for that; and, to get it again, I will have to endure the misery of that journey once more: all because of the selfishness of people who could perfectly well allow me access, but choose not to.

I’m not going to rage about how these databases are all paid for by me, through my taxes.  Instead let me observe something else which amused me rather.

A few weeks ago I advised the library to obtain the English translation of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Commentary on Isaiah.  Earlier this week I received notice that they had purchased the eBook.  So I went to look for it while I was there.

I was a little surprised to find that I couldn’t simply download a PDF.  Rather I was subjected to a horrible proprietary interface, which officiously told me that I could read n pages, or print m pages (the two numbers not being identical, of course).  I struggled with the thing a while, and then simply gave up.  A paper book could be used, but this was impossible.

I then looked at another “eBook”, three treatises of Cyril of Alexandria, in the Fathers of the Church series, and found the same idea.  Again I just gave up.  Give me a paper book rather than this.

Fortunately DeGruyter, in their GCS series, don’t do this, and I was able to get hold of the Greek text at least of this work, so that I can work out where the supposed reference to Acts 4:10 might be.

But the other two made me laugh.  I mean… these guys have already been paid, right?  The library has sloshed money at them, for access to the book.  But these creeps are so concerned about not getting paid even more, by people who might, like, save a copy, that they make all kinds of difficulties.  I found, in fact, that the expensive access that CUL give their readers gave me very little.

I also noted a sign of the times.  The CETEDOC database was in the Brepols online site.  But not even the world’s number two university could afford to purchase all of the options!  The Patrologia Orientalis collection was not available.

All this nonsense is only temporary, of course.  The racket whereby material produced by state-funded academics is then sold back to the state-funded universities at an extortionate price must collapse soon.

But I still feel sore about those hours on the road.  If the library was open later, I might drive over in the evening.  But it is only open from 9.00-19:15.

What I did find was some 68 references to that verse in Latin writers before 500 AD.  Some I already have.  But there were a number in voluminous commentaries in Latin.  These were mostly by Jerome, and it is interesting to see that most of these are untranslated.  How is it that, in 2015, the commentaries of Jerome remain untranslated?

All in all, therefore, it was a productive evening.

Further notes on Methodius in Old Slavonic

I have written before on Methodius of Olympus (d. 311 AD), and how some of his works survive only in an Old Slavonic translation.  This week I scanned the preface of the Russian translation by E. Lovyagin (1905).  It proved to be in a pre-revolutionary spelling, but a kind correspondent modernised this for me, so that I could use Google Translate and see what the author had to say.  Here is the Russian text of the preface:

There is no evidence of the use of Old Slavonic sources, and the title page makes plain that this is from the Greek.  Lovyagin seems to have taken the edition of Jahn – which assembled rather more Greek fragments than were accessible to the Ante-Nicene Fathers translators – and translated it into Russian.  In fact a commenter on this post, discussing the table of contents, makes the same point.

Mikhail Chub in 1961 and 1964 did use manuscripts in his articles for Богословский труды (Bogoslovski Trudy – archive of these now online here).  Two of these mss are now online here.

I had forgotten that, back in 2011, I obtained PDFs of these, which I can no longer locate; and translated Michael Chub’s preface and placed it here; and that I tried to get a translation made from a GCS edition of Methodius on Leprosy, using a commercial German translator, but unsuccessfully.  But I still want to attack this material.

Perhaps the way forward is to get translations made of Michael Chub’s Russian translations.  They are relatively short, and deserve attention.  It is helpful that the articles can now be downloaded in PDF form.

Playing with a 1905 Russian book, Finereader 12, and Google Translate

This morning I decided to see what I could find out about a 1905 Russian edition of the works of Methodius of Olympus (d.311 AD), which I obtained in PDF form from a library in Chicago a year or so back.

Now I don’t know any Russian … not even the alphabet.  But I have tools at my disposal to help me!

First of all, we have Google Translate.  This will give us something, and we can even enter corrections as we go along.  We also have the ability to enter unicode using Charmap.  Finally modern software like Abbyy Finereader 12 does a remarkable job.

I started with the title page.  I didn’t actually get much from this, except for a reference to “complete” and “Greek”.  So it’s probably an edition of the complete works, translated from Greek or something.

On the reverse of the title page, I got this:

Отъ С.-Петербургскаго Духовнаго Цензурнаго Комитета печатать дозволяется. С.-Петербургъ, 27-го іюля 1904 г.

Цензоръ, Іеромонахъ Александръ.

Сиб. Типолитографія М. II. Фроловой. І’алерная, 6.

Erm, yes.

So I popped it into Google Translate.  I got this:

Ot St. Peterburgskago of spiritual Tsenzurnago Committee is permitted to print. St. Peterburg, 27th іyulya 1904
Tsenzor, Іeromonah Alexandre.
Sib. Tipolitografіya M. II. Frolova. І’alernaya <5.

OK…  But hang on…

Surely “Ieromonah” is “Hieromonk”?  And I wonder, O I wonder, what “Tsenzor” could mean?  It must be pronounced “Censor”!  Which means that “Tsenzurnago”, combined with “Committee of spiritual Tsenzurnago” is probably “Committe of spiritual censorship”!

So the notice must mean that this is permission to print, issued by the St Petersburg committee for spiritual censorship, signed by the Hieromonk Alexander, Censor.

The text has not scanned perfectly.  “I'” should actually be Г, and “<5” is actually “6”.  That makes the last line:

Sib. Tipolitografіya M. II. Frolova. Galernaya 6.

Which is probably something to do with the address of the printer.

Now this is a little thing, in a way: except consider what it means.  All we need to make progress is some industry.  If I started looking words up, and learning a bit about the language, I would soon learn even more.  All I need is time and industry.

And … candidly … it’s quite fun!

Discovered: A 5-6th century fragment of Methodius’ “Symposium”!

Methodius of Olympus.  5-6th century papyrus fragment of the Symposium.
Methodius of Olympus. 5-6th century papyrus fragment of the Symposium.

I learn from Brice C. Jones that a marvellous discovery has been made: a papyrus leaf, or the remains of one, containing a portion of the Symposium of the Ante-Nicene writer Methodius of Olympus (d. 311 AD, as a martyr):

New Discovery: The Earliest Manuscript of Methodius of Olympus and an Unattested Saying about the Nile

… The only complete work of Methodius that we possess is his Symposium or Banquet—a treatise in praise of voluntary virginity.

Until quite recently, the earliest manuscript of this text was an eleventh century codex known as Patmiacus Graecus 202, which is housed in the Monastery of St. John the Theologian on the island of Patmos.

But a remarkable discovery has recently been made in the Montserrat Abbey in Spain.

Sofia Torallas Tovar and Klaas A. Worp, who have been working on the manuscript collection in the Montserrat Abbey for many years, have just published a fragment of Methodius’ Symposium that they date on palaeographical grounds to the fifth-sixth century—about 450 years earlier than the Patmos codex mentioned above. (On another recent, important discovery by Tovar and Worp, see here.)

Published as P.Monts. Roca 4.57, this fragment is the first attestation of a work of Methodius from Egypt. It is a narrow strip of parchment, with thirty partial lines preserved on the hair side (see image of fragment at right).

The text on this side of the fragment comes from Oratio 8:16.72-73, 3:14.35-40, 8.60-61, and 9.18-19 (in that order).

The flesh side contains thirty-five partial lines of text unrelated to the Methodian text. This is an unidentified Christian text with “Gnomic” sentiments, as the authors explain.

In addition to the wonderful fact that we now have a significantly earlier manuscript witness of Methodius’ text, there is also another remarkable feature in the new manuscript: a previously unattested saying about the Nile. In lines 5-8, the manuscript reads:

“The rise of the Nile is life and joy for the families”
ἡ ἀνάβα̣σ̣ε̣ι̣[ς] τοῦ Νείλου̣ ζω̣ή̣ ἐστι κ̣[αὶ] χαρὰ ἑστία[ις]

As the authors note, this saying does not occur in Methodius. And indeed, it does not fit the immediate context. Where it comes from is a mystery, but the saying is nonetheless very interesting.

Marvellous!  And thank you, Brice, for making this known to the world!  Brice adds that the publication is:

Sofía Torallas Tovar and Klaas A. Worp, ed., with the collaboration of Alberto Nodar and María Victoria Spottorno, “Greek Papyri from Montserrat” (P.Monts. Roca IV) (Barcelona: 2014), no. 57.

What this find also reminds me, is that Methodius is one of the very few ante-Nicene authors whose works have not been translated into English.  This is because they survive only in Old Slavic versions.  I paid some attention to these, in previous posts, and even acquired some texts; but I must hurry up and try to get some translations made!

From my diary

Lots of excitement on the Methodius manuscripts this morning — Adrian Tanasescu-Vlas has been through the STSL Ms. 40 and identified the works on Methodius in it.  I’ll do some more on this after lunch.  He confirms that De lepra is in there, which means that it is now possible to get someone who knows the language to translate it into English.

I’ve been thinking more about the Origen book, which hasn’t progressed in 18 months.  This means that, without intervention, it will never be done. Possibly the way to progress this is to bring in a collaborator, charged with finishing it off.

Meanwhile the postman brought me a parcel which proved to contain a paperback of Mithras : de geheimzinnige god, complete with colour cover and a stiff-looking picture of Maarten Vermaseren on the back.  I shall attempt to convert this into a PDF this afternoon, since it will be much more useful that way.  I hope that I don’t destroy it in the process, but I have my doubts.

Maarten Vermaseren, 1959

Russian State Library Methodius mss

Well, I’ve now managed to create two PDF’s of page images of  the Old Slavic manuscripts of Methodius, one of ms. 40 and one of ms. 41.  The contents of the two mss are different, tho.  The PDF’s are really too large to use.

I wonder if there is a catalogue around anywhere, that would tell us what these mss. contain.

Manuscripts of the Old Slavonic Methodius online!

A commenter has discovered two manuscripts of the Old Slavonic Methodius online!  The manuscripts used by Michael Chub, when he edited some of the works, are apparently accessible:

Some good news. I found the scans of two Old Slavic manuscripts used by Archbishop Mikhail.

See, the first two manuscripts (40 and 41) from the list.

Sadly one can’t download the things as PDF’s — they’d be much easier to look at in that form!

Russian translation of Methodius now online

Some time back I discovered that a Russian translation existed of the works of Methodius of Olympus (d.311 AD).  This is significant, since most of the works of Methodius known today have survived only in Old Slavic, or Old Russian.

The translation was made by Evgraf Loviagin, and the 2nd edition appeared in St. Petersburg in 1905.  A copy exists in the University of Chicago library, and they agreed to digitise this if I sent them $20.  A colleague with a US bank account kindly wrote me a cheque for that amount, and off it went.

This evening I can announce a little Christmas present for us all, courtesy of the University of Chicago: Loviagin is now online.  They haven’t managed to upload the PDF to their own site yet — I’ll post the URL once I know it.  It is undoubtedly public domain, since Loviagin died in 1909.  So I have uploaded it to, where you can access it here.

Not quite sure what it contains.  Here’s the table of contents (from the back, of course):

Methodius, De Lepra – opening portion now online in English

Regular readers will remember that I commissioned an English translation of the German version by Bonwetsch of Methodius’ De Lepra (On leprosy).  I did so, because the work is preserved in an Old Slavonic text, which has never been published, plus Greek fragments.  The GCS series published a German translation by Bonwetsch of the Old Slavonic, interspersed with the surviving Greek remains (for which no translation was provided).

Unfortunately the translator had the greatest difficulty with ecclesiastical language, and I found myself investing more and more time in making what he produced make sense.  This seemed to demoralise him, such that he stopped worrying about whether his output actually made sense in English.  The final straw was when he delivered a long chunk, wherein many of the sentences weren’t even grammatical.  At that point I terminated the contract, foreseeing that I would have to invest just as much time correcting this as I would if I had decided to do the whole thing myself.  I still had to pay rather more than I really felt the work was worth, particularly as he had not troubled to respond to my queries on one set of pages at all.

What was done, to an adequate standard, was the first 6 pages of Bonwetsch, minus a long Greek chunk in the middle of the last two.  This is now online here.  As ever, I make this public domain; do whatever you wish with it, personal, educational or commercial.

Not sure what to do next.  I’d still like this work translated, but I feel a bit bruised at the moment!

The translation of Methodius crashes and burns

Sometimes it just doesn’t work.  This morning I started looking through the translation of the German version of Methodius, De lepra, as given by Bonwetsch from the Old Slavonic.  The translation into English — for which I am paying commercially — just didn’t work.  The translator did not have the feel for ecclesiastical works, and so the result was unreadable.  Worse, it was ungrammatical English at points.  It made my head hurt, just looking at it and trying to work out what, if anything, it meant.

I’ve accepted the inevitable and messaged the translator to cancel the project.  I shall have to pay him for what he has done, useless tho it is.  It’s money down the drain, essentially.

Oh well.  I tried.

The first few pages were not too bad, after I commented and suggested etc.  I’ll post these here when I have handed over the money.